“Sea horses”, the Alfa Romeo powerboat on display
Five world titles, the first two Formula 1 championships in history, 11 Mille Miglia, 10 Targa Florio, hundreds of other triumphs in the Sports and Tourism categories: Alfa Romeo’s sporting history on the road and on the track is well known. Less known is another page of history, the one written on water. In fact, technologies and innovations developed by Alfa Romeo have also been used in motorboat racing, a sport as exciting as motoring and capable of attracting the enthusiasm of the public.
From the 1930s to the 1980s, Alfa Romeo was one of the absolute protagonists in this field as well. Aero and car engines, series and racing engines have been adapted for marine use, derived not only from the legendary Alfettas during and after their automotive career, but also from Giulietta, Giulia GTA, Montreal, 2600 and others. Between records and world titles, European and Italian in the various classes,
Alfa Romeo has won almost as much on the water as on the track and on the road. In the year of Alfa Romeo’s 110th anniversary, the Arese Museum pays homage to this fascinating and not yet fully explored chapter with an exhibition entitled “Sea horses”, a quote from an article published in the Quadrifoglio magazine in 1973. On display, from October 17, 2020 to February 21, 2021, boats and objects that tell the “other life” of the Biscione engines, from competitions to public transport, from military vehicles to pleasure boats, up to the fishing boats used on horseback in World War II for supplying company canteens.
In the year of Alfa Romeo’s 110th anniversary, the Arese Museum pays homage to this fascinating and not yet fully explored chapter with an exhibition entitled “Sea horses”, a quote from an article published in the Quadrifoglio magazine in 1973.
On display, from October 17, 2020 to February 21, 2021, boats and objects that tell the “other life” of the Biscione engines, from competitions to public transport, from military vehicles to pleasure boats, up to the fishing boats used on horseback in World War II for supplying company canteens.
Records and other
A brand historically linked to the world of racing, Alfa Romeo also has a rich palmarès in motor boating. Alone, 9 of the 10 boats on display (the tenth is a pleasure model) have collected in the various categories something like 11 world records, 6 world championships, 7 European and 9 Italian, as well as 5 gold medals of the Coni . The exhibition traces all the types of engines that have dominated powerboating: from the legendary Alfettas to the various declinations of the twin-shaft, up to the Montreal and the Tipo 33.
The “three lives” of the Alfetta
In the motorboat field, the engines, modified in the marine version, were often given exclusively for temporary use only and managed on the racing fields directly by the Alfa Romeo racing department. This is the case, for example, of the Alfetta engines. Thus the exhibition is an opportunity for a historic return: the meeting between Arno II ° – a sleek monohull built by the Picchiotti shipyard in Viareggio in 1946, specially restored, after 70 years, for this exhibition – and the engine that at the time mounted, that of the Alfetta 158. An engine which, when in 1950 it gave Alfa Romeo the first Formula 1 title in history, had already won three world championships on the water, an Italian title, had beaten the world speed record and much more, with Achille Castoldi as a driver.
Castoldi himself had obtained the exclusive use of the 158 engine in motorboat competitions since 1938. And it was he who saved some of the Alfettas in 1943 by hiding them on his farm in Abbategrasso, sheltered from bombings and requisitions.
Arno II was even piloted by Achille Varzi, who climbed the podium of the Luino Cup in 1948. At the end of 1949, with the arrival of the revolutionary “three points”, it was put to rest, without an engine, and never used again. But the engine did not retire: in its road version it won the first two titles in the history of Formula 1, in 1950 with Nino Farina and in 1951 with Juan Manuel Fangio. When Alfa Romeo withdrew from F1 the following year, a new, extraordinary adventure began for the Alfette engine. And to testify it, on display is the Laura 1 °, who together with Musketeer, Tamiri and Laura 3 ° – the latter even driven by two Alfetta engines in line – wrote memorable pages of sport, with axes of the caliber of Mario Verga , Ezio Selva and Castoldi himself, accumulating race victories and speed records.
Parade of world champions
Also on display are other models with impressive palmarès: the Loustic 2, an inboard-racer of the LV-1300 class built by the Celli shipyard in Venice and powered by the 1300 engine of the Giulietta AR530. In 1964 he set 3 cross-country world records in the 5, 10 and 15 miles of his class.
Then there is the Molinari-Alfa Romeo 2500, the only existing example, which in 1966 won the world title. Built for the motonaut of the Agusta Fortunato Libanori team, it has an aeronautical aluminum alloy body made by the Agusta Helicopter Department. In honor of the collaboration in the sector, the tail shows the coloring of the Alitalia airliners.
And again: the “Dalla Pietà – Alfa Romeo” hull which in the European Runabouts / Inboard sport category won 3 European and two Italian titles between 1968 and 1970. Unique model, it had been built for Luigi Raineri, famous Alfa Romeo marine racing engine tuner.
Also on display is “Molivio – Alfa Romeo GTA” on which Leopoldo Casanova, driver and record holder of the Alfa Romeo Autodelta inboard engines: from 1968 to 1972 he won a European title, 4 Italian titles, and set the world speed record 4 times in 3 classes.
The 1970 “Celli” is the first of the 4 2500 racers powered by the marine Montreal-Autodelta and was piloted by Antonio Pietrobelli, famous driver who won Italian, European and world championship titles on the circuit for over 10 years.
The racing motorboat series is completed by a racer built by the Lucini shipyard in Como for Franco Cantando, the Lucini-Alfa Romeo 2000 winner of the R3 world record in 1974 and, the following year, world champion. Finally, there is the “Popoli-Alfa Romeo” from the Alfa Romeo Museum Collection. With this Type 33 hull and engine brought to two and a half liters by Autodelta, Leopoldo Casanova set the world speed record in the KC 500 KG class, still unbeaten, at an hourly average of 225,145 km / h.
From explosive small boats to boats to pleasure boats
The history written by Alfa Romeo on the water is not only made up of races and records, but also of much more. To testify the use of the Biscione engines in the tourist field is “Glauco”, a very rare traditional Vidoli monohull from 1932, exceptionally powered by an equally rare 6C 1750 engine, a classic type of touring boat of wealthy families of period, coming from the Collection of the Museo Barca Lariana in Como.
The victories, the challenges but also the history of the Alfa Romeo powered Venice waterbuses or the infamous “explosive boats” of the Second World War are finally told through unique scale models, historical images and a rich collection of objects and documents.
The exhibition, which takes advantage of the generous participation of some of the most important international collections and of the Museo Barca Lariana – Lake Como International Museum of Vintage Boats, with the patronage of the Italian Motorboat Federation-Coni, will be open on the days and times of opening of the Museum (Saturday and Sunday from 10 to 18), and is included in the entrance ticket.